$kaduf sounds like nobody else in Texas, but he couldn’t have come from anywhere else. It’s a point of pride for the Pleasant Grove rapper. His lyrics are intensely personal, turning a microscope on himself and the city he grew up in, but $kaduf’s sound is more New York City circa 1994 than South Dallas in 2015.
Despite his Golden Era influences (he names Nas and Gang Starr as two favorites), $kaduf’s music is clearly forward-thinking. He’s working to re-introduce classic storytelling to a genre that has largely moved away from it, and is breaking a lot of stereotypes about Texas hip hop along the way. According to $kaduf, Dallas has one of the biggest hip hop scenes in the world, but it’s missing a breakthrough artist to truly put the city on the map. When $kaduf says he plans to be that person, we can believe him. Ambition and talent go a long way.
The rapper’s currently working on a self-titled LP, which he says will be a more introspective record than his EP from last year, Groveside The Realest. We sent $kaduf some questions via email to ask him about his writing process, the state of Dallas hip hop, and Big B’s burgers. Read our Q&A below, and catch $kaduf tonight at the Crown and Harp, where he’ll be the featured performer at Too Fresh Productions’ producer beat battle.
I want to ask right off the bat, where does the name $kaduf come from?
$kaduf is a childhood name I got from a friend of mine named Dinaoli. We went to Truett Elementary together and he use to call me that as a nickname. It gets pronounced incorrectly so I want to help out the people reading this on how to correctly say it. It’s pronounced “Ska-duff.” The name adopted me and I just went with it.
I know you produce your own beats. When you’re putting a song together, what typically comes first—the lyrics or the music? What’s your songwriting process like in general?
I like to start off with the beat. For me it sets the tone for how I am going to write and deliver my style on a track. Once that’s complete I listen to the track over and over until I feel comfortable. Every time I am writing a new song, I push myself to be better with each one.
When did you first figure out you had a gift for music and storytelling? How did you decide to pursue it?
I always knew I had it. My sister listened to 2Pac when I was little. I would start to “rap” and throw some rhymes together when I was about 14 or 15. It was just for fun. When I was 16 or 17 music had turned into something else and I wanted to kind of change it. I wanted to change the view of popular music of people my age because what they are feeding us right now is trash. I knew I could bring something better to the table.
Your focus seems to be on kind of old school storytelling rap, and in a lot of ways reminds me more of some classic East Coast artists than most of what you normally associate with Texas hip hop. Who are some of your influences and what’s made you want to take that route?
I had not heard anybody from this area do something like that before, especially in my age group or from Pleasant Grove. I wanted to make music like the people who inspired me, like Gang Starr & Nas. I’ve always had an appreciation for the Golden Era sound of hip hop. Ultimately, I wanted to put my twist on what I learned from them and apply it to what I could.
What do you think of the hip hop scene today, both here in Dallas and at a national level? Are you currently collaborating with any other artists?
I’m actually glad you asked me that because, to me, we have one of the biggest hip hop scenes in the world. Simply because nobody here has really blown up and been the mega artist for hip hop we could turn to. I plan on being that person! Dallas seems to have a lot of favoritism with a lot of f**kery going on with certain people having the spotlight. At the moment I’m collabing with Tony Staxx cause he believes in me like I believe in him. He’s a true MC and I don’t collaborate with half-ass artists or just anybody.
Your lyrics tell a lot of your own story. In what ways has your life growing up in Pleasant Grove affected your music?
It made me not wanna be like these other “artists” where I’m from. I don’t want to just be in local clubs and I don’t wanna lie to these people saying [that] selling drugs will make you a millionaire. Nah, it’s not that easy, but I love my hood cause it taught me what I need to do and made me who I am. I’m the one they’re gonna least gonna expect. Growing up in Pleasant Grove made me the person I am today, but I didn’t want to make the kind of stereotyped music you would associate with my hood.
You have a song called “Free Uylss.” Who’s Uylss?
It’s called “Free My N***a Uylss.” He’s my childhood friend I first met when we were in middle school. He’s my first real friend I bonded with. He’s incarcerated right now for armed robbery. I miss hanging out with him. That was my boy. We used to kick it and hit up trains and did everything together. That was my dude for real. I wrote the song to let him know that whenever he gets out that I’m still his n***a. I started thinking about him heavy one day. I had heard a J Cole track, and sampled one of his songs because it inspired me. J Cole was talking about what was on his mind and what was going down in the world right now. I wanted to do the same.
What type of burger should people get from Big B’s and what kind of 40 oz. would you recommend to go with it?
Burger wise, a double bacon cheeseburger with pickled relish, and for a fourty ounce: You can only drink a 211 or an Olde English. For me, I’m trying to stop drinking period though.
What are you working on right now, and what’s next? What can we expect from $kaduf in 2015?
I’m working on my self-titled LP “$kaduf.” I’m going to make history with that one. More storytelling and more me. That’s why it’s self-titled. You can expect to hear different producers and sounds that I think are special to what I’m trying to do. Expect $kaduf like you have never heard before. I put Groveside out first because I had to show love to where I’m from. Now it’s my time to tell you more about me, $kaduf.
Editor’s note: This Q&A was condensed and edited for clarity.